Fashion's Embrace of Digital Printing on Fabric

MakersValley Blog | Fashion's Embrace of Digital Printing on Fabric
Aileen Padua

Aileen Padua

New forms of technology have made fashion design a lot more convenient. Whether you’re using silk or polyester for your clothing collection, digital printing on fabric has revolutionized print designing by way of dye sublimation technology.

The Origins of Fabric Printing

Fabric printing has existed since 916-1297 AD. It originated in China, in the form of textile screen printing. Here's how that process works:

  1. This screen printing process starts with the preparation of the screen made with layers of mesh and a light-reactive emulsion that hardens into a design once it becomes exposed under light.
  2. Once the emulsion is exposed, the fabric screen printer washes it off and begins the designing process with a stencil.
  3. The print artisan creates a stencil, which he or she then lowers into the printing frame where ink will be pressed through the screen and stencil, creating the imprint of the design.

This process leaves the designer's printed designs decorated on the finished product.

MakersValley Blog | The Origins of Fabric PrintingDior Fall 2012 collection

Now, here’s something to consider – if clothing brands continuously find solutions to stay relevant using fashion forecasting, then screen printing is one highly customizable technique that they can use to flex creatively. However, screen printing isn’t the latest and greatest technique in fabric printing, nor is it the one with the largest swath of environmental advantages.

Dye-Sublimation Innovation At Its Finest

As digital technologies continue to impact fashion production, digital fabric printing has evolved into the new, big fashion printing technique. As mentioned above, digital printing requires dye-sublimation, or the thermo-chemical process by which water-based ink bonds to fabrics through heat transfer. Designing printed fabrics using the dye-sublimation that’s crucial to digital printing is quite an intricate process.

  1. Choosing a fabric: Before considering digital print for your collection, you must choose your fabrics wisely. The best types of fabrics to use for digital print are: silk, cotton, polyester, and linen. You can read more about choosing the right fabrics from our article, “Choosing The Best Fabrics For Your Clothing Line”.
  2. Printing: Dye-sublimation requires the use of a printer that uses transfer paper. With the first printer, your graphics should be printed on transferable paper that uses sublimation inks (hence, the term “dye-sublimation”).
  3. Processing: With the fabric of your choice, use a heat press to transfer the inked design from the paper, onto the fabric.

This process of dye-sublimation, has made digital printing the “greatest innovation of the 21st century”. Digital printing doesn’t require the same dry time and elaborate setup as screen printing and has allowed brands to release collections a lot faster due to the high demand of keeping up with trends and the interest of consumer’s wants and needs. It allows designers to easily implement creations and stay on their toes when it comes to designing upcoming clothing collections.

Environmental Benefits of Digital Printing on Fabrics

MakersValley Blog | Environmental Benefits of Digital Printing on Fabrics

Digital printing has a smaller environmental footprint than some other fabric printing techniques. That’s because it cuts the number of fabrics wasted as well as reduces water use by 90 percent and electricity use by 30 percent. That helps textile mills to improve their efficiency and lower their environmental impact .

When releasing your upcoming collection, considering incorporating digital printing to help your brand’s efficiency and improve its impact for the long run.

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